A Journey Towards Justice
by Kathryn Heetderks, Director of Formation to Mission, and Michelle Black, Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Graphic showing aspects of Catholic Social Teaching and Sacred Heart Education.

The image above illustrates how: scripture forms the roots of Catholic Social Teaching; Church documents form the base of the tree; and aspects of the Goals and Criteria, Society of the Sacred Heart documents, and JPIC issues to which the society are committed surrounded by the theme of Catholic Social Teaching serves as a united framework for the work of Sacred Heart schools on DEI.


We see our mission and identity as a Sacred Heart school as a gift that defines our diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging philosophy. It is a North Star that guides us in our work when the next steps in our journey towards justice are not always clear. We know that any journey begins with prayer and requires ongoing discernment, preparation, training, and a deep and sustained commitment from all members of the community. We are so grateful for the continued collaboration between all members of the Stone Ridge community: students, alumnae, parents, faculty, staff, administration, and our trustees in this work of journeying together towards justice—even when the road is difficult and the world around us is filled with division and cynicism.  

Justice is and always has been at the heart of our mission. We continually navigate the dynamic tension between a sense of urgency to right wrongs and our responsibility to approach this work thoughtfully and compassionately with consideration of what all of our students need to be able to grow and flourish. As a Sacred Heart institution, we are committed to engaging in deep discernment and consultative processes. We carefully evaluate curriculum, programming, and any changes to school policies, traditions, and overall culture through the lens of our mission. We value diversity, equity, and inclusion as integral elements of who we are as an institution. With the belief that each person is created in the image of God, we are committed to fostering an awareness that impels us to act in the interests of equity and justice for all. We are confident that the Holy Spirit is guiding us as one body in the direction of justice and sustaining us as we grow personally and collectively on this journey together.

Our DEI work has expanded over the last 13 years to include a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion serving on our Management and Academic Leadership teams and DEI Co-leaders in each division. Additionally, the Board of Trustees and Alumnae Board formed DEI Committees to help advance this work. And, we instituted more robust hiring practices to attract candidates dedicated to DEI work in the classroom. Stone Ridge students continue to attend and lead various presentations and DEI activities on campus and beyond. Programming and curriculum is reviewed continuously to ensure we recognize all aspects of diversity throughout the school.

DEI has been a commitment of Stone Ridge for decades. Our most recent experiences enabled us to deeply explore how the Holy Spirit is calling us related to diversity, equity, inclusion, justice, and belonging through the lens of our mission. Through our conversations with the community, it is clear that we must create spaces where all community members can grow and learn and stretch with both courage and confidence. The spirit of Goal IV is to encourage diversity of thought, respectful dialogue, and honest and constructive communication. We are committed to making our classrooms and programs ones in which no student feels “called out” or “canceled” due to their opinions or beliefs, but instead “called in” and valued as an essential member of the community. The Conference of Sacred Heart Education has created Respectful Dialogue resources and we use these and other resources to develop and institute initiatives to improve listening, dialogue, and relationship building throughout our K-12 experience.


The Foundations of our DEI Program and Initiatives
We dedicate ourselves to ensuring DEI programming and initiatives are grounded in our Sacred Heart mission, Catholic Social Teaching, the virtues of our Catholic faith, the Catholic intellectual tradition, and our view of parents as the primary educators of their children on faith and morality. We embark on this journey with trust and hope in God's grace and mercy.

Foundation 1: Our Sacred Heart Mission
The mission of our DEI work reflects the overall mission of Stone Ridge and our identity as a Catholic, independent, Sacred Heart school. The mission statement of the Office of DEI reads, “Rooted in our Catholic faith and the Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart education, Stone Ridge values diversity, equity, and inclusion as an integral element of the community and education. We believe that each person is created in the image of God, and we commit ourselves to fostering an awareness that impels us to act in the interests of equity and justice for all.” We draw on the criteria of Goals and Criteria of Sacred Heart education to reflect on and design and implement our DEI work.

Foundation 2: Catholic Social Teaching
Our DEI programs and initiatives are grounded in Catholic Social Teaching and our Sacred Heart tradition, which provide a unifying lens for our conversations about peace and justice issues. Catholic Social Teaching is rooted in the Bible and is responsive to the complex and changing world in which we live. Distinguishing it from other aspects of Catholic moral teaching, Catholic Social Teaching is specifically related to how we, as a society, engage in the work of caring for one another and our world. This work includes naming the realities at a given point in time, highlighting the dangers to full human flourishing, and critiquing these dangers from the point of view of the Catholic faith. An integral part of Catholic Social Teaching is the process of “see-judge-act,” inspired by the words of Saint Pope Paul VI. In our Sacred Heart schools, we describe this as a process of “Pause. Reflect. Discern. Decide. Act.” We start with awareness by looking at the world around us and analyze what we see using various sources. We spend time in discernment and prayer and then act. After we act, we return to a period of reflection to evaluate these actions and discern our next steps.


Foundation 3: Catholic Intellectual Tradition
The third foundation of our DEI work is the Catholic intellectual tradition which combines both faith and reason. In this spirit and the spirit of Goal II, we teach our students to use the gift of their intellect, informed by their faith and conscience, to evaluate information and resources in order to form their own understandings and help them to make informed decisions. Our courses and programs introduce and examine resources and theories in developmentally appropriate ways. Teachers are supported and guided in the process of evaluating approaches to complex conversations by department chairs, division heads, our counseling team, the Director of DEI, and the Director of Formation to Mission in order to ensure that these discussions are done so in the light of our Catholic Sacred Heart identity.

Foundation 4: Catholic Virtues and Values and the Attitudes of Christ’s Heart
Our Catholic virtues and values inspire the fourth pillar in our approach to DEI education. Commonly referred to as “Attitudes of the Heart of Christ” in Sacred Heart schools, all Catholic virtues are present in the heart of Christ and all attitudes of Christ's heart are considered Catholic virtues. All aspects of our School’s programming and curriculum are expected to align with Catholic virtues and the attitudes of Christ's heart. Keeping these virtues in mind helps us to ensure that our approach to DEI work, the materials we use, and the programs we develop align with our mission.

We are also called to ensure that we never use virtues to shame or disempower others. We know from history that aspects of the Christian faith, such as the virtue of patience, have been gravely misused to silence or disempower others. No one should ever be told to tolerate their oppression at the hands of others as a spiritual good. We must evaluate our work within the entirety of the Gospel message to ensure that a virtue is never intentionally or unintentionally misused to advance human desires instead of God’s will for us.

Three virtues we must call upon often in this work are courage, fortitude, and humility. As the criterion of Goal V reminds us, we have to expect that there will be discomfort for both adults and students as we grow. We will not feel good doing this work all the time. Still, programming and initiatives intended to facilitate growth must be designed in the spirit of Christ's loving and merciful heart, which seeks to bring God's children closer together as one body.

Foundation 5: Parents As the Primary Educators
Each day, parents share the most precious parts of their hearts with us and this is both a great honor and great responsibility. As a Catholic school we recognize parents as the primary educators of their children on faith and morals. We assume that in choosing Stone Ridge as their child’s school, parents are fully aware and committed to our mission. Therefore, as partners in our mission, we welcome open and direct communication from parents. In the spirit of Christ’s heart, it is important that communication is direct, charitable (assuming best intent), and open to reconciliation. The building of a foundation of trust between parents and school is at the heart of our ability to work together to build a community where all members feel a sense of deep belonging. Active, transparent, and charitable communication and dialogue in this partnership is essential in building this culture of trust.

Foundation 6: Trust and Hope in God’s Grace and Mercy
Finally, as a community of fallible human beings, try as we might, we know that we will not get all communications, programming, initiatives, and responses to concerns right all of the time. We work to center ourselves in the Holy Spirit, who guides us and inspires us in this work. We seek to coordinate with God's grace—reflecting on where we are called, committing ourselves to excellence in these intentions, and asking to be held accountable to our commitments. We endeavor to navigate the tension between responding immediately to suffering in our community and the need to be thoughtful and deliberate. This work is successful when it begins with, flows from, and is sustained by prayer.

We are surrounded by a culture of division, anger, violence, and noise, where the desire to win an argument often comes before the desire to respond with compassion. Yet we as the Stone Ridge community continually strive to put relationships at our center, even in moments of disagreement. These difficult times are when prayer, compassion, empathy, critical thinking, and dialogue help us serve one another and our mission. The fact that we have wholeheartedly engaged in this work as faculty, staff, administration, parents, students, and alumnae while living through a pandemic—reinventing the industry of education for our students and parenting children through unprecedented times—is a clear sign that we all care deeply about this work. We look forward to our continued dedication, unity, patience, and persistence in this journey. We must move forward together so that we can truly live the mission of bringing Christ's loving and merciful heart into the world.